Marengo: “Days Gone By” The "Old Mud Store"

If you look at the intersection of U.S. Route 20 and 23 or, “the four-way stop,” as we used to call it, you will now see the new strip mall located at this location. Well, in “Days Gone By,” we remember the Sid Sears, the Hewitt’s Phillips 66 stations; and later, William Piske’s Phillips 66, and a Sunoco gas and service station, all in the same building with different station operators. Wright’s Tire Store was to the south. To the west was the Ralph and Ruth Curtis home. The gas and service station structure, along with Wright’s Tire Shop and the Curtis home, were torn down circa 2004 to make room for a new strip mall. The post office address of this location is known as: 101 West Grant Highway. Something else used to sit at this location, and the Marengo residents call it, the “Old Mud Store.”

Mud Store History—The Mud Store was built by Mr. M.G. Stevens. The wooden, one-story building was built in the 1840’s. It had many uses over the years. A general store, post office, drug store, clothing house, family dwelling, saloon, copper shop, blacksmith shop; and I suspect the last use was the poultry house. It was in ruins by 1896. So, on January 16, 1896, the city fathers condemned the building, and the Old Mud Store was razed. The remains were hauled away to be burned.

Unfortunately, I could not find much information on Mr. Stevens. His daughter, Lucy S. (Stevens) Sperry b.1827-d.1909, was married to Marengo Attorney, Anson Sperry, b.1824-d.1889. Attorney Sperry was a Civil War veteran, a U.S. Army Paymaster, and a member of the local Grand Army of the Republic Harley Wayne Post in Marengo. In the 1877 McHenry County directory, Mr. Sperry is listed as having a law office on Prairie Street. It is unknown to me the location on Prairie Street. Both the Sperry’s are buried in the Marengo City Cemetery. I can find no listing for Mr. M.G. Stevens’ burial.

The enclosed drawing of the “Old Mud Store” was taken from the 1935 Marengo Republican News Centennial Edition. I do not know who the artist is for sure; but I think it might be Mr. Ray Walters, who helped considerably with artwork for this 1935 Marengo Centennial edition. Mr. Walters, a well-known artist, lived at 906 North State Street and passed away in his home on Monday, February 6, 1967 at the age of 85 years. Next time you walk by the corner at 101 West Grant Highway, Marengo, Illinois, take a look and visualize the “Old Mud Store.” Sitting in that very spot were all the people and events that have taken place in that small, little corner of Marengo history. Other sources for this story were from Ruminations by Rudy, and my own files.

Thanks for reading.

(For more information, call Mike Bigalke at 815-568- 5887, or e-mail him at mbigalke@mc.net)